• Pete

Turns | Steering | Intersections

Updated: 2 hours ago


There’s a lot going on when you’re first learning to drive, especially when it comes to making turns. Your right foot is working the pedals, both hands are steering, and your eyes are constantly scanning the driving environment. It takes the same level of coordination as a drummer in a band or a hockey player on the ice.

A drummer uses their left hand to play the snare drum, right hand and left foot for the high hat, and their right foot for the base drum. All at the same time. And that is just to play one instrument by itself. Add in a band, and now you must not only maintain rhythm and coordination, but must also maintain sync and flow with the rest of the band. Similarly in traffic, a driver learns how to control the brake and gas pedals, steering wheel, and in some cases a manual shifter, in order to drive in sync with the flow of traffic.

At first, learning to drive can be challenging but the best way to learn anything complicated is to it break apart. Let’s look at a rolling turn as an example, as they are one of the more difficult maneuvers to perfect with good flow. First, you approach the turn at a safe speed for how sharp it is, while maintaining a steady pressure on the brake or gas pedals, depending on whether it’s an uphill or downhill turn. The turn signal must be activated before you apply the brakes, then the steering wheel must be turned smoothly while maintaining seamless flow and control. All of these steps are performed at specific times and together during a rolling turn, so it can be a lot all at once.

So, to perfect rolling turns, one can focus on just the approach speed for the turn and then once that is perfected, they can add in hand over hand steering. If adding in the steering causes the approach speed to suffer, remove the steering and go back to perfect the approach speed again until it’s back to perfect. A driver must perfect all of these steps harmoniously at slower speeds then gradually increase to faster speeds.

Over time and with practice, all of these steps fuse together and become second nature for a driver which then allows them to focus on spotting hazards in the driving environment. Slow it down, break it apart, and perfect that flow.

Turns on turns on turns

Timing Turns

How To Properly Use Your Turn Signals: How Far Ahead Should You Signal, When To Use Them, And Why

  • When entering an intersection to perform a rolling left turn, there will be drain grates or utility hole covers. They are centered in the intersection so if you drive over them as you make your turn you will be perfectly lined up in your lane as you complete the turn. Slow down gradually for rolling turns and observe the intersection as you approach.

  • For stopped turns, you’ll want to stop, then move out gradually to side look each way, then shoulder check and go.

  • On rolling turns, you can shoulder check 100 feet before your turn. This gives you more time to react if there is a cyclist or pedestrian in your blind spot.

  • If the intersection is bumpy, then your turn will be bumpy. That’s normal.


  • If your turns aren’t smooth, slow them down.

Check Yourself Before You Make Your Move


Pro tip: You can adjust the playback speed of the video below and slow it down. This will make it easier to see what my hands are doing while doing hand over hand steering. Don’t get discouraged with this, it takes a bit of practice. The key is to take your time. A simple way to remember this technique is you lift the hand of whichever side you are turning so the other can pass under.

For the best steering control you should hold the wheel from the outside with thumbs resting on the wheel. This is how you have to hold the steering wheel on the test, with your thumbs resting on the outside of the wheel.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Hand Over Hand Steering

Steering Tips

  • Sometimes when turning right from a stop, you might find that you are turning too wide. You are likely accelerating a little too much and not steering soon enough. Slow it down.

  • 10 and 2 is the easiest hand position for hand over hand steering.

  • If the turn is not a perfect 90 degree turn then hand over hand steering will be awkward or may not work perfectly.

  • Cule Sacs are the easiest place to practice hand over hand steering.

  • Let the steering wheel slide back on both of your hands as it returns to maintain control.

  • If the steering wheel is not returning naturally, you just need to accelerate a bit more as you exit the turn.

  • You can put a piece of colored tape at the top center of your steering wheel to help you see when the wheel is straight.

  • Rest your thumbs on the outside of the wheel for the driving exam but after you get your fulls, it’s okay to have your thumbs inside of the steering wheel where the thumb slots are. That’s why the engineers put them there.

  • You want to always have your hands above the center of the steering wheel as much as possible so that they never get locked between your legs and the wheel.

Counter Steering can help you recover from a skid. Just turn your wheels in the same direction of the skid.

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Counter Steering can help you recover from a skid. Just turn your wheels in the same direction of the skid.

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Traffic Is Just Like The Internet. It's A Place Where Strangers Are Forced To

Interact Together. Sometimes It Goes Good, And Sometimes Not So Good.

People Are Mostly Good Though.


Stop before the line. If there is no line, stop before the sign.

It can be confusing when you first do a turn from a stop. The image below shows how to break the turn apart into a step by step process. Remember that the shoulder check is the very last thing you do before you make your move and go.

The Safe Distance To Stop Behind A Vehicle At A Traffic Light Or Other Line Of Stopped Cars

Lights Out At Intersections; Stay frosty

Controlled Intersections

If the lights are out at an intersection at night you should not only be vigilant but also a bit paranoid. Many of the motorists travelling through the intersection will not even realize that there is an intersection there and will not stop. Note that none of the traffic lights in Nova Scotia have any kind of backup lighting or reflective tape for these types of situations.

Lights-Out Intersections

I used to ride a sport bike and one thing I can tell you is, you have to ride like everyone else on the road is trying to kill you. In the video below, the rider is approaching an intersection at what appears to be too fast a speed. Motorcycles are a lot smaller than cars, making them much harder to see. All the more reason for motorcyclists to ride at the speed limit.

Never speed up at an intersection

Left turns on solid green lights

You must yield to oncoming traffic when waiting to turn left on a solid green light. Left turns on solid green lights will be the most dangerous thing you will do while driving.

How To Make Safe Left Turns At Intersections Across Oncoming Traffic: Don’t Have A Wreck Like I Did!

  • SOLID GREEN - Go, but yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic driving straight through the intersection.

  • FLASHING GREEN - You have the right-of-way to turn left, right, or continue straight.

  • GREEN ARROW - You have the right of way in the direction of the arrow.

Left Hand Turns At Intersections On Solid Green Lights; Take your time!

Intersection tips

  • Never trust anyone’s signal light. Wait until the vehicle physically slows down.

  • Stop at the stop line, or the sign if there is no line.

  • If you are stopped at the stop sign and the car in front of you proceeds through, you still have to do a full stop at the line even if you are already stopped.

  • If you make a mistake at an intersection, just wave and smile.

  • Always scan an intersection from left to right as you approach it to ensure no one is running the red light. This is extremely important and is one of the critical aspects of any road test.

  • Never change lanes at an intersection.

  • The first vehicle in line, waiting to turn left should be in the intersection on a solid green light, while keeping the steering wheel straight.

  • Stay in the lane you chose before the turn, while you make your turn. You can change lanes once the turn is completed.

Red Light Runners In Halifax

Red Lights

  • STEADY RED - You can make a right turn at a red light after you come to a stop.

  • FLASHING RED - Means the same as a STOP sign.

Cameras on, but nobody watching; newly installed cameras used for traffic sensors


Dump Truck runs red light

Yellow Lights

  • STEADY YELLOW - Be prepared to stop. A steady yellow light means the traffic signal is about to turn red.

  • FLASHING YELLOW - Drive with caution.

  • YELLOW ARROW - The protection of a green arrow will end. If you intend to turn in the direction of the arrow, be prepared to stop.

Yellow lights and committing

  • Stop for a yellow light unless you are too close to the intersection to stop safely. In that case drive cautiously through the intersection.

  • Never speed up for a yellow signal to “beat” the red signal.

Yellow lights are hard to judge at first, but a good practice is to imagine any stale green light you approach is going to turn yellow as you approach. Anticipate the change and ask yourself where you think the point of no return is, aka the commitment point. Generally the commitment point for a yellow light will be 200 feet out depending on your speed.

Judging Yellow lights

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